New row as candidate in police elections claims austerity 'forced a third of police stations in North Yorkshire to be sold off'

A row has broken out over claims by the Labour hopeful in the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner elections that nearly a third of North Yorkshire's police stations have closed over the last decade.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 10:41 am
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 10:46 am
The question of police resources has triggered a row in the campaign to be the next North Yorkshire Police Fire and Crime Commissioner.

Alison Hume, Labour’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) candidate for North Yorkshire voiced serious concern over the closure of a third of North Yorkshire’s police stations over the last ten years.

In a Freedom of information disclosure, she said the force revealed 12 staffed stations were closed between February 2010 and February 2020 with Pately Bridge the latest station to be closed and sold off.

The Labour candidate said in total during the last 10 years 13 of the 43 stations in North Yorkshire have closed – all of them having had front counters.

Alison Hume said: “This is extremely worrying. The Conservative budget cuts not only led to the loss of 20,000 police officers – who are now having to be recruited back into the service – but more than 600 police stations across the country have been closed so the police service can claw back the funds that have been slashed from their budgets.”

“These stations play an important role within our communities.

“Most importantly, they make people feel safer – they offer a space for people to safely report crime as well as providing office space and comfort facilities for police officers.

"Their absence leaves a real hole in rural communities."

But Tory PFCC candidate Philip Allott hit back saying his Labour rival was being "selective with the figures" and there was no point keeping open police stations not being used by the public.

Philip Allott said: "The Labour candidate has yet again chosen selective figures by ignoring the new stations that have opened like Harrogate moved across the road like Pateley Bridge or where the police and fire service have combined together to form a combine station as in the case of Ripon, or moved into the headquarters as in the case of Northallerton or partnered with a local authority like Selby.

"In a report published in 2016, some police stations were only getting one visitor a day.

"By combined stations with the fire service and making better use of existing assets and working in partnership with Councils, substantial savings have been made all of which can be reinvested back into frontline policing to support the extra 300 police officers recruited since 2012.

"As a potential future Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner I want to see more police visibility, and more partnership working.

"Police officers hidden within stations can achieve neither.

"Policing has moved on from the Dixon of Dock Green era, so I am surprised why a Labour candidate would seek to maintain old police stations that were getting just one visitor a day.

For Labour, Alison Hume said: "The Government says it believes in local policing accountable to local communities but the austerity measures over the last ten years have made this almost impossible to achieve.

"I worry it’s just a matter of time before all local police stations are closed meaning our relationship with law enforcers becomes ever more distant.

“As PFCC I’ll do all I can to maintain the stations we have and to enable officers to live and work in the communities they represent and protect.

"In addition officers are now often based some considerable distance from where a crime has been committed and by the time they arrive the perpetrator has long gone.

"Closing or reducing custody suites also means that suspects have to be transported further before being questioned or charged, incurring longer hours and stress on both the suspect and police officers involved."

The Lib Dems' PFCC candidate James Barker said his party's commitment to abolishing the office of Police Fire and Crime Commissioner itself would free up funds to invest in more and better policing.

James Barker said: "For far too long the chronic Tory and Labour underspend in the Police and Fire Service has been all to evident.

"The Liberal Democrats would look to re-establish a Police and Fire panel from within the eight councils that make up North Yorkshire.

"In this way we can re-invest these considerable savings made from removing the office of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner into frontline services'".

The independent candidate in this May's North Yorkshire Police Fire and Crime Commissioner election, Keith Tordoff MBE said the closure of police stations in recent years was a national problem which was having an effect on the relationship between police and public.

Since 2010 around half of all police stations have been closed down. Like the police officer on the beat, communities have lost police stations and with that the reassuring feeling of support, if needed which had been close at hand.

A huge loss when police stations close is the loss of information from local people. The mobile phone and internet does not fully compensate or cover for this lost information.

A well known quote is ' the police are the public and the public the police '. This statement should be the foundations of policing decisions. Equally the quote ' No Politics in Policing ' should be the ethos adopted by police services.

The political parties have for over a decade cut police numbers and police stations.

"Yes, the Government are now hastily recruiting more police officers to try and make up the number they themselves cut, but the closed police stations are a lost community asset.

"And no this is not harking back to the 'good old days', this is just plain good common sense based on the facts.

"Where police stations have closed, antisocial behaviour and crime has increased.

"The test of the police is the absence of crime and disorder and this is not being met.

"Local community hubs which are not staffed by police trained personnel are not conducive to passing on information in confidence.

"Visionary and imaginative, cost effective measures need to be looked at to reestablish police offices where the public can visit and speak with police trained personnel.

"If elected as the Independent Police Fire and Crime Commissioner of North Yorkshire I will work with the chief constable to achieve this."

Factfile: North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner elections, North Yorkshire, May 6, 2021

The candidates

Conservative: Philip Allott

Labour: Alison Hume

Independent: Keith Tordoff MBE.

Lib Dem: James Barker.

Looking back: Result of 2016 election for North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner

First Choice Voting: Conservative 53,078 Labour 34,351 Independent 30,984 Lib Dem 13,856

As no candidate won over 50%, the second preferences of the Independent and Lib Dem candidates were distributed to the two leading candidates, giving this final result:

Conservative 65,018

Labour 44,759

Factfile: North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner

The North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) elections will take place on Thursday, May 6; the same day as the North Yorkshire County Council Elections.

PFCCs are elected every four years and are elected representatives who oversee a police force and fire service area.

There will be one PFCC elected for all of North Yorkshire.

The winner will replace the current commissioner Julia Mulligan, who has come to the end of her term.

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